New lease of life for Portaferry building

New lease of life for Portaferry building

12 July 2017

PORTAFERRY Market House will reopen to the public this weekend after undergoing extensive restoration work.

The popular venue in the centre of the town will open its doors in time for Portaferry’s 50th Gala Week celebrations from July 15-21 giving residents and visitors the perfect opportunity to enjoy the space.

The historic Grade B1 listed building has received a £350,000 redevelopment as part of Portaferry Townscape Heritage Initiative — a £1.28m heritage led scheme to regenerate buildings within the historic town centre of Portaferry. The project was joint funded by Ards and North Down Borough Council and Heritage Lottery Fund and administered by Portaferry Regeneration Ltd.

It is expected the project will provide long-term benefits to the town by encouraging other tourism development. The newly renovated building will provide a neutral space for residents and visitors to enjoy and aesthetically enhance the Market Square.

The Market House was commissioned and paid for by Andrew Savage. Dating from mid-18th century, it is the earliest surviving public building in Portaferry. 

It was laid out in a typical Irish market house style with an arcaded open-plan ground floor and open plan hall/courthouse to the first floor. 

Originally the Market House held a market every Thursday.  Upstairs, meetings of the Portaferry Literary Society and the Portaferry Mechanics’ Institute took place. The building was also used as a Manor Court and later, a petty session court.  

Tea dances and concerts were popular in the central location and it was also Portaferry’s first bank, the penny bank.  

Today, the Market House remains a central community hub that is currently used for various activities including meetings, fitness classes, arts and crafts classes, martial arts, sea scout’s activities, youth clubs, coffee mornings and the gala week hub. 

The refurbishment works have enhanced the historical and architectural features of the building whilst creating a more usable space for the community. Original features have been reinstated including the opening-up of the arcade onto the Market Square.  Improvements to accessibility, building safety and performance have also been made to the building.   

John Dumigan, Chairman of Portaferry Regeneration Ltd, said he believed the work will ‘kick start’ renovations of private property in the town which will greatly benefit residents and visitors alike.  

“It will also complement Exploris, bringing more tourism-related businesses to the town increasing its visitor base,” he said.